Thursday, August 31, 2006

Drawing the line

Am I the only person on earth who really uses a pen to write anymore? For all that I spend time in front of the computer, I do still do some of my writing in physical, paper notebooks. They're easy to carry around, quiet, unobtrusive, and comfortable somehow. What's not comfortable is the pen.

First, forget everything at the office. The company purchases whatever is the absolute cheapest they can get their hands on, I think, and who can blame them? Pens wander off, anyway. But these things are dreadful, assuming that you're using them for writing words and not just chewing the caps off of, or standing on end on your desk in moments of boredom. The last office, despite being a little less conscious of their budget, didn't do much better, and I must conclude that it's the pen offerings, not the offices.

In a huge office supply store with a whole aisle of pens, can't we do any better? Perhaps, but there's almost no way of knowing. I will say, I have yet to meet a gel pen that impresses me much. Ball-points, though, should be an established enough technology that somebody out there can do them right.

A good pen should write a clean line. It should write at a variety of natural angles (I hold mine unusually high, if I have a pen that allows it) and without scratching or dragging along the page. It should write a clean, bold line without skipping, smearing, blotching, or bubbling. It should not rattle when moved, either. It should have a comfortable grip, too, though on this count, we're not doing too badly these days.

So why can't I find a pen of this description? I'm willing to spend a few dollars on a decent pen, now that I can usually keep track of them, but there is almost no way to know, in the store. All pens these days come sealed between plastic and cardboard, so there's no way to hold them or try writing.

The closest I've come lately on the low end is the PaperMate Clearpoint. It also comes in an impenetrable package, but a friend let me try the one she had. It's hard to find, even now that I know what I'm looking for. Lately, I have also assembled my own with excellent results.

I will have to make an excursion this weekend to try to find ink to refuel my fountain pens. I have a couple that I like, but nobody seems to sell bottled ink anymore. I already came up empty-handed in one large office store (also devoid of conventional stationery, except for laser printers and a minute selection of thank-you cards and wedding invitations) and in an art-supply place next door (they had ink, but only in a package with 15 colors, or another with a quill pen included). I'll try a couple nearby college bookstores and high-end stationers next.

Why all the fuss? Because when I'm writing I want to think about the words, not the pen, and because having a good, comfortable pen can entice me into writing.


Anonymous Kim Bruning said...

My parents used to have a store that sold office supplies. We still had a stash of our favorite

"free ink needlepoint rollerball pen"

pens for the longest time. I'm not sure where the stash is hidden at the moment.

I like the way those pens write. Sharp, smooth, ink flows well. You can hold them at an angle, basically all your requirements.

I found some hits for the above search phrase on google that look to be the right thing. You might get lucky! :-)

31 August, 2006 16:51  

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